It’s hard what to make of the 2016 Volkswagen Golf. Looking at it purely as a car, it’s pretty darn good: timeless looks, peerless build quality, peppy performance, respectable fuel economy—it is by and large, the whole compact car package. But put the window sticker on it—P 1,759,000—and the 1.4 TSI Highline isn’t looking like such a bargain anymore. The price pretty much limits the appeal of Volkswagen’s everyman car. And while Corolla or Civic buyers looking to upgrade won’t be lining up for a Golf any time soon, those willing enough to pay the premium will certainly be in for a treat.
The exterior treatment isn’t striking by any measure. Taking on the styling cues introduced in the Jetta and Passat, it’s a bit more mature and aloof. Compared to the Japanese makes in this class, the Golf doesn’t go for crazy, sweeping lines or oddly-shaped tail lights. Instead, it’s much more subdued, relying on timelessly elegant proportions and a more planted stance. It manages to play homage to the classic Golf with all the design cues—C-pillar and roofline to name two—but done in a way that doesn’t go full on retro.
The mature look and feel continues the moment you step inside. The doors themselves feel gratifyingly heavy, a true mark of solidity. Settling inside, there aren’t many distractions that get in the way: no pop-up screens, no fancy looking infotainment controls, it’s all straight-forward in its design and execution making it all the more refreshing. It also feels much more premium with the abundance or soft-touch material and quality trim pieces. The squared-off center stack, with its large buttons and nice, tactile knobs, is angled towards the driver, making everything easy to use and operate. There’s only one criticism you can throw at the interior and that’s the abundance of aluminum embellishing the dashboard. Y2K called and wants that trim back. It’s a personal preference, but a darker shade would have modernized the look.
Like the Golf GTI, this regular Golf adopts the same 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen. Overall, it works very well, playing clear and aurally satisfying tunes and seamlessly pairing with smartphones. The graphics and aesthetic feel alright, but the countless menus and sub-menus do take a while to master.
Seating is adjusted manually and offers excellent support to eliminate driver fatigue on even the longest of road trips (one sitting had the Golf do Quezon City to NLEX to SCTEX to SLEX to Makati). The rest of the driving controls are equally great from the thin, three-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel, well-positioned pedals, and highly legible gauges. Overall visibility is great, making it easy to drive in the thickest of traffic jams, though the tailgate and rear pillar do rob some rear visibility (a potential problem during parking). Thankfully, front and rear parking sensors are standard.
Interior space is alright as long as you’re bringing along three intimately close friends. It’s not as spacious as other compact cars out there, but at least there’s good shoulder and headroom front and back. The cargo space is also respectable and can easily take on grocery shopping duties with little difficulty.
If there’s one product Volkswagen cannot afford to mess up, it’s the Golf and as such, it’s imbued with engaging driving dynamics. Despite having power figures that aren’t really anything to write home about, it provides a well-balanced experience with a peppy engine, sharp handling, and good fuel economy.
Employing the 1.4-liter TSI engine shared with the Beetle, the engine looks small for such a driver-oriented hatchback. Yet, it delivers on-road performance that’ll surprise even the most discerning thrill seeker. It pushes out healthy figures: 160 horsepower and 240 Nm of torque—numbers that put it in the same league as its normally-aspirated 2.0-liter or 1.5-liter force-induction competitors. What’s more, all that torque is available low in the power band—from as low as 1,500 rpm and plateaus up to 4,500 rpm. This makes the Golf a venerable road rocket, with instantaneous off the line power. There’s a slight lag when you tap the throttle from a standstill, but once the engine gets rolling and hits its sweet spot, it’s a boon. The small, turbocharged engine is double-edged though as throttle inputs must be regulated with precision. Anything less leads to unwanted jerkiness, especially in stop-and-go traffic.
Also shared with the Beetle is Volkswagen’s fast-acting 7-speed DSG or Direct Shift Gearbox (their trade name for a dual clutch automatic). It’s largely smooth and quick to respond in both up- and downshifts, but gear hunting does happen a lot at lower speeds. Together with the engine’s jumpy attitude, it all means the Golf may suffer from constant lurching when stuck behind stop-and-go traffic. Equipped with BlueMotion, the Golf has one of the best idle start/stops in the business, easily trouncing another Japanese compact equipped with such technology. The start/stop system together with the small engine and quick transmission collectively has a positive effect on fuel economy: 8.47 km/L (average speed 15 km/h) in the city and 18.52 km/L (average speed 84 km/h).
It may look conservative, but the new MQB architecture that underpins the Golf means it is one fun car to throw around twisty roads. Apart from the solid body structure, the chassis itself is tuned in a way that makes the whole experience feel safe, secure, and sublime. There’s minimal body roll and the Golf remains planted to the pavement be it through sharp corners or long, gradual bends. The steering, though slow around the center, is progressive and natural. The brakes also have a nice, sharp bite to them with a pedal that’s easily modulated. And apart from being mechanically capable, it also impresses with its high level of driver engagement. Everything from the steering to the driving controls to the way it carries itself through even the worst of roads is all balanced beautifully. For sure, the ride is sporty and firm, but not in any way that makes the experience uncomfortable.
All in all, the Volkswagen Golf lives up to its hype. It’s respectably fast and returns a nippy and well-balanced driving experience that’s sure to brighten up any commute or Sunday morning coffee run. Compared to other compacts out there from Japan, the Golf not only feels like a solid car in both aesthetics and build, but it’s also very engaging to drive. It’s thoroughly engineered inside and out and it shows. That said, it’s perhaps too over-engineered and a bit of price adjustment could do the Golf some favors (at least here in the Philippines). Surely, a select few will get what the Golf has going for here, and they’ll appreciate it; but the hefty price means most will not be able to afford or willing to take the German plunge.
2016 Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI Highline
|Ownership||2016 Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI Highline BlueMotion|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Car|
|Body Type||5-door hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||150 @ 5,000|
|Nm @ rpm||250 @ 1,500-4,500|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 95~|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||8.47 km/L @ 15 km/h
18.52 km/L @ 84 km/h
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,286|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Continental ContiSportContact 5 225/45 R 17 Y (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front, Rear|
|Other Safety Features||Electronic Differential
Lock (EDL) with XDS
Engine Drag Torque Control (MSR)
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold, Heated|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual Zone|
|# of Speakers||8|